Custody hearing held for Lonzie Barton's sister


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The parents of Lonzie Barton appeared before a Duval County judge Wednesday, this time for an update on the couple's 5-year-old daughter.

Chris and Lonna Barton's little girl has been living with her grandmother since the day after her brother, Lonzie, disappeared.

While not the main suspect in Lonzie's disappearance, Lonna Barton was charged with child neglect and lying to police in connection to that case and was out bond when Baker County deputies arrested her and Chris Barton on drug dealing charges.

That arrest came just hours after the two asked the court for custody of their 5-year-old child.

Wednesday's court appearance was a status hearing where the judge confirmed both Chris and Lonna Barton completed their psychological and parenting assessments.

But the questions the judge asked attorneys were all about the couple's daughter, how she's doing and what the court could do to help.

Lonna Barton could be seen smiling while standing in Duval County Family Court when hearing about her 5-year-old's Halloween costume. She's going to be Supergirl.

That's just one of several updates Judge David Gooding got during the status hearing.

"I visited with her yesterday for three hours, she has a lot of exciting activities going on this week. She went to the pumpkin patch at school yesterday. She is going to be with extended family this evening to carve some pumpkins. Tomorrow they have a big party at school, Friday there is no school and Saturday she is excited about going trick-or-treating," the girl's guardian ad litem told Gooding.

While the girl's mother listened in person, her father, Chris Barton, did so over the phone.

Both are in jail on drug charges out of Baker County and Lonna Barton faces charges in Duval County in connection with Lonzie disappearance.

Gooding is the judge who originally placed the 5-year-old in her grandmothers care, an arrangement the Guardian Ad Litem said was working out well.

"I was pleased to see the report from the therapist that the child is responding well to therapy, beginning to open up, and the therapist also said that the grandmother had been very helpful and they have a good relationship with one another. That's so important for a small child," Gooding said.

The guardian ad litem also said the girl is doing well and she is right where she needs to be with her grandmother.

Local psychologist Dr. Lynn Wadleton, with First Coast Therapy Group, spoke out about what the hearing could mean for the little girl's mental well-being. 

"Therapy going better could mean a lot of different things. Maybe the primary interest for the therapist is that the child is feeling better, sleeping better, eating better, less behaviorally upset, those are the important things that we care about as a therapist," Wadleton said.  

The next hearing on the girl's custody will be at the Duval County Courthouse Nov. 16.